The House of Yan: A Family at the Heart of a Century in Chinese History

Harper. Jan. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9780062899811. pap. $17.99. BIOG
With this debut, investment banker Yan relates her family history from 1895 to 2015. The author’s grandfather, Yan Baohang, grew up poor during the final years of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). He managed to get an education, enabling him to befriend members of China’s elite. He served the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-Shek in the 1930s, but later joined the Communist Party and was one of the leaders of the People’s Republic of China founded in 1949. Yan’s father was a Russian language translator for Chairman Mao, and her mother was a diplomat. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), her grandfather and father were arrested, and her grandfather died of abuse he suffered under interrogation. At age 11, Yan and her mother were accused of being counterrevolutionaries and were sent to a reeducation camp. After the revolution ended her family was rehabilitated. Now based in France, Yan has her story expertly translated by Sam Taylor.
VERDICT A touching, essential account for anyone interested in 20th-century Chinese history and highly recommended for fans of personal family memoir.
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